Kristina Williams fights for her first pro MMA title on Wednesday in the co-main event of Invicta FC 51, and she believes a victory could lead to her next bout being in the UFC.
Williams takes on 15-fight vet Ketlen Souza for the vacant Invicta FC flyweight title in Denver, Colo. The event airs on AXS TV and streams on the Invicta FC YouTube channel. “Warhorse,” a former Bellator fighter, has won three straight bouts since parting ways with the promotion and is hopeful that extending her win streak to four — and having a new championship belt around her waist — will be enough to get that UFC call.
“That would definitely be the best-case scenario,” Williams told MMA Fighting. “I feel like that could happen if I have a dominant win, and that would be awesome.”
The 33-year-old had her first six pro bouts under the Bellator banner, where she went 3-3 against top-ranked competition. While she is grateful for her opportunity to compete on such a big stage early in her MMA career, it also taught her a lot of lessons along the way.
In a weird way, Williams is having a second career in MMA, and is much more free as an athlete than she has ever been before.
“That [Bellator run] feels so far away,” Williams said. “I’ve completely restarted, completely reinvented my game. It’s weird to think about.
“It’s more the way I just approach fighting now. I used to lean on my coaches for everything — make the game plan, tell me exactly what to do — and now I’ve taken more of an active role in making my own game plan, watching the fighters. I’ll still get all of the input I can from my coaches, but then it’s me making the decisions with what I’m going to do in that fight, and what I’m going to do as a fighter, because I know myself better than they do.
“I don’t have any coaches telling me, ‘You have to do this game plan,’ so it allows me a lot more freedom and I feel like that’s where this new success is coming from.”
To become champion and take one step closer to making it to the UFC, Williams will have to defeat the 12-3 Souza, who enters the fight a winner of four straight, which includes her promotional debut in defeating Maiju Suotama at Invicta FC 49 in September 2022.
Williams respects Souza’s game, but believes her own keys to success will be just being herself and not allowing Souza to gain confidence.
“She is a very active fighter,” Williams explained. “She switches stances and moves a lot, and she just plays her game. When she gets comfortable in there, she’s hard to deal with, but what I’ve seen is most people just stand in front of her and let her play her game. That’s something that I’m just not going to do.
“I have a couple of different scenarios [with how the fight will play out],” Williams continued. “It could be an all standup fight, but I’m very comfortable on the ground, so if I do finish it there, I’ve been working on that a lot. I’m always there for the striking, the elbows, slice things up with those elbows, and get the finish.”
When asked if at sometime in 2023 she’ll fight in the UFC, Williams kept it simple.
“Yes [it will happen this year],” Williams said.